• Holyoke Medical Center proposes behavioral health hospital; says timing not related to closure of Providence Behavioral Health beds in Holyoke
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By Jim Kinney | jkinney@repub.com

Article Credit: MassLive

The announcement follows last week’s news that Trinity Health Of New England, parent company of Mercy Medical Center and Providence Behavioral Health, plans to close 74 inpatient psychiatric beds at Providence Hospital in Holyoke as well as Providence’s outpatient methadone clinic in Springfield. Trinity cited a shortage of psychiatrists and the availability of other methadone clinics in Springfield.

Monday’s announcement was not related to the Providence Hospital news, said Holyoke Medical Center spokeswoman Rebecca MacGregor.

“It’s just the way the timing worked out,” she said. “We’ve been working on this for more than a year.”

Holyoke Medical Center said it sees an opportunity to fill a need.

“Holyoke Medical Center is eager to have conversations at the state level to expand the much-needed behavioral health bed capacity in western Massachusetts,” said Spiros Hatiras, president and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center and Valley Health Systems, in a news release. “This proposal is fully in-line with the Commonwealth’s goal to increase investment in behavioral health services.”

Two for-profit partners, Signet Health and developer the Leo Brown Group, are involved in the project. Signet has worked at Holyoke Medical Center since September 2019 managing its existing behavioral health beds and handling the intake process.

Holyoke Medical Center said it’s only now beginning to work with with other stakeholders like the state Department of Mental Health, Department of Public Health and Executive Office of Health and Human Services, as well as with the city of Holyoke.

McGregor said the new facility will be somewhere on the existing Holyoke Medical Center campus on Beech Street, but the exact location is not determined.

The project still needs state and local approvals. If it is approved, construction would take about 18 months, MacGregor said.

Holyoke Medical Center didn’t release an estimated cost.

But it did say the building will meet all the modern requirements including secure outdoor space for recreation. It would have a total of 100 beds. Twenty beds would be moved from the medical center’s existing inpatient psychiatry ward, for a net gain of 80.

MacGregor said Holyoke Medical Center hasn’t yet decided if the facility will have a pediatric unit or how it will divvy up the beds by patient population.

Providence Behavioral Health Hospital is about 2 miles south of Holyoke Medical Center on Route 5.

Providence is closing three inpatient mental health units: adult, pediatric and geriatric. Its pediatric unit is the only place in central or Western Massachusetts where young people, from 6 to 17 or 18, can get inpatient psychiatric care. It has a total of 24 beds, but Providence was only operating a dozen of them in recent years.

The loss of capacity for troubled youngsters has sparked concerns among other mental health services providers.

Separately, Baystate Health has its own plan for a standalone inpatient behavioral health hospital and is evaluating prospective partners.

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